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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 1, 2022

Former GE Power Engineer Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage Following Four-Week Trial

Jury Finds Xiaoqing Zheng Conspired with Individuals in China to Steal GE’s Trade Secrets Knowing or Intending to Benefit the Government of China

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Xiaoqing Zheng, age 59, of Niskayuna, New York, was convicted yesterday of conspiracy to commit economic espionage following a four-week jury trial.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman of the Northern District of New York; Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterintelligence Division; and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albany Field Office.

Zheng was employed at GE Power & Water in Schenectady, New York, as an engineer specializing in sealing technology.  He worked at GE from 2008 until the summer of 2018.  The trial evidence demonstrated that Zheng and others in China conspired to steal GE’s trade secrets surrounding GE’s steam and gas turbine technologies, knowing or intending to benefit the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and one or more foreign instrumentalities, including China-based companies that research, develop, and manufacture parts for turbines.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen stated: “Zheng conspired to steal trade secrets from his employer, GE, and transfer this information to his business partner in China, so they could enrich both themselves and companies receiving support from the PRC government.  This is the kind of exploitation of our economy and open society that the Department will continue to counter relentlessly.”

United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman stated: “Today’s verdict holds Xiaoqing Zheng accountable for betraying his employer and trying to help China cheat in the global marketplace. With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who connive to steal trade secrets and valuable technology from the innovative companies doing cutting-edge work in our district.”

Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr., of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, stated: “Those who conspire to steal technology from a U.S. business and transfer it to China can cause tremendous damage. Good-paying jobs could be lost, and communities can suffer. These actions help China become more of a threat to our national security. This is why the FBI puts so much effort into investigating cases of economic espionage.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Janeen DiGuiseppi stated: “Dr. Zheng used his status as a trusted engineer with GE to conspire to commit economic espionage on behalf of the People’s Republic of China. This conviction should send a strong message that the FBI will continue to vigorously investigate economic espionage cases and pursue prosecution in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure the protection of American technology and American jobs.”

Sentencing is scheduled for August 2, 2022, in Albany, before United States District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino.  Zheng faces up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $5 million, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.  A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.

By voting to convict Zheng of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, the jury concluded that between 2016 and 2018, Zheng and others in China conspired to steal GE’s trade secrets involving gas and steam turbine technologies, knowing or intending that the theft would benefit the Government of China.  The jury acquitted Zheng of two counts of economic espionage and two counts of trade secret theft.  The jury could not reach a verdict on one count of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, two counts of economic espionage, three counts of trade secret theft, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rick Belliss and Emily C. Powers, and Trial Attorney Matthew Chang of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Updated April 1, 2022